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Lynx spaceplane mockup.jpg
Mockup of Lynx spaceplane
Function Manned suborbital launch and reentry
Manufacturer XCOR Aerospace
Stages (none, fully reusable spacecraft)
No. boosters 4
Thrust 2,900 pounds
Burn time
Fuel LOX-Kerosene

The XCOR Lynx is a suborbital horizontal-takeoff, horizontal-landing (HTHL), rocket-powered spaceplane under development by the California-based company XCOR Aerospace to compete in the emerging suborbital spaceflight market. The Lynx is projected to carry one pilot, a ticketed passenger, and/or a payload above 100 km altitude. As of March 2014, the passenger ticket was projected to cost $95,000.[1][2]

The concept has been under development since 2003, when a two-person suborbital spaceplane was announced under the name Xerus. Fabrication and assembly of the Lynx Mark I is currently underway.[3]



In 2003, XCOR proposed the Xerus (pronunciation: zEr'us) suborbital spaceplane concept. It was to be capable of transporting one pilot and one passenger as well as some science experiments and it would even be capable of carrying an upper stage which would launch near apogee and therefore would potentially be able to carry satellites into low-Earth orbit.[4] As late as 2007, XCOR continued to refer to their future two-person spaceplane concept as Xerus,[5]


The Lynx was initially announced on March 26, 2008, with plans for an operational vehicle within two years.[6] However, the build of the Lynx Mark I flight article did not commence until mid 2013 and, as of October 2014, XCOR claimed that the first flight would take place in 2015.[7] [3] Passengers due to make flights in the Lynx include the 23 astronaut selectees from the Axe Apollo Space Academy worldwide contest.


The Lynx will have four liquid rocket engines at the rear of the fuselage burning a mixture of LOX-Kerosene, each engine producing 2,900 pounds-force (13,000 N) of thrust.[8]

Mark I Prototype[edit]

  • Maximum Altitude: 62 km (203,000 ft)[2]
  • Primary Internal Payload: 120 kg (260 lb)[9]
  • Secondary payload spaces include a small area inside the cockpit behind the pilot or outside the vehicle in two areas in the aft fuselage fairing.[9]
  • Composite LOX tank[10]
  • Mach 2 (1,522 mph) speed of ascent[11]
  • 4G re-entry loading[11]

Mark II Production Model[edit]

Mark III[edit]

The Lynx Mark III is the same vehicle as the Mark II with External Dorsal Mounted Pod: 650 kg (1,430 lb) and is large enough to hold a two-stage carrier to launch a microsatellite or multiple nanosatellites into low-Earth orbit.[18]

Lynx XR-5K18 engine[edit]

The XR-5K18 is a piston pump fed LOX/RP-1 engine using an expander cycle.[18] The engine chamber and regenerative nozzle are cooled by RP-1[17][18]

The development program of the XCOR Lynx 5K18 LOX/kerosene engine reached a major milestone in March 2011. Integrated test firings of the engine/nozzle combination demonstrated the ability of the aluminum nozzle to withstand the high temperatures of rocket-engine exhaust.[19]

In March 2011, United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced they had entered into a joint-development contract with XCOR for a flight-ready, 25,000 to 30,000 pounds-force (110,000–130,000 N) cryogenic LH2/LOX upper-stage rocket engine (see XCOR/ULA liquid-hydrogen, upper-stage engine development project). The Lynx 5K18 effort to develop a new aluminum alloy engine nozzle using new manufacturing techniques removes several hundred pounds of weight from the large engine leading to significantly lower-cost and more-capable commercial and US government space flights.[20]


It was reported in 2010 that the Mark I airframe could use a carbon/epoxy ester composite, and the Mark II a carbon/cyanate with a nickel alloy for the nose and leading-edge thermal protection.[21]

Mark I build[edit]

The flight article Lynx Mark I is claimed as being fabricated and assembled in Mojave beginning in mid 2013.[22] The cockpit of the Lynx (made of carbon fibre and designed by AdamWorks, Colorado) was reported as being one of the items that held up the assembly.[9]

Test program[edit]

Tests of the XR-5K18 main engine began in 2008.[23]

As of February 2011, engine tests were largely complete[15] and the vehicle aerodynamic design had completed two rounds of wind tunnel testing. A third and final round of tests was completed in late 2011 using a "1/60-scale supersonic wind tunnel model of Lynx."[11][15]

As of October 2014, XCOR claimed that flight tests of the Mark I prototype would start in 2015.[7][3][24]


NASA sRLV program[edit]

As of March 2011, XCOR has submitted the Lynx as a reusable launch vehicle for carrying research payloads in response to NASA's suborbital reusable launch vehicle (sRLV) solicitation, which is a part of NASA's Flight Opportunities Program. XCOR projects 110 km (68 mi) altitude in flights of 30 to 45 minutes duration, while carrying up to 140 kg (310 lb) internal—or 650 kg (1,430 lb) external—of research payload. Flights will provide up to three minutes of microgravity below 0.01 g.[25]

Commercial operations[edit]

According to XCOR, the Lynx will fly four or more times a day, and will also have the capacity to deliver payloads into space. A Lynx prototype called Mark I was expected to perform its first test flight in 2015,[7][1][26] followed with a flight of the Mark II production model twelve to eighteen months after.[7] XCOR currently plans to have the Lynx's initial flights from the Mojave Air and Spaceport in Mojave, California[27] or any licensed spaceport with a 2,400 meter (7900 ft) runway. Towards the end of 2015[28] or in 2016[1] the Lynx is expected to begin flying suborbital space tourism flights and scientific research missions from a new spaceport on the Caribbean island of Curaçao.[29][30][31]

Because it lacks any propulsion system other than its rocket engines, the Lynx will have to be towed to the end of the runway. Once positioned on the runway, the pilot will ignite the four rocket engines and begin a steep climb. The engines will be shut off at approximately 138,000 feet (42 km) and Mach 2. The spaceplane will then continue to climb, unpowered until it reaches an apogee of approximately 200,000 feet (61 km). The spacecraft will experience a little over four minutes of weightlessness before re-entering the Earth's atmosphere. The occupants of the Lynx may experience up to four times normal gravity during re-entry. Once it has completed re-entry, the Lynx will then glide down and perform an unpowered landing. The total flight time is projected to last about 30 minutes.[18] The Lynx is expected to be able to perform 40 flights before maintenance is required.

As of March 2011, Orbital Outfitters was designing pressure suits for XCOR use.[32][dated info]

The successor to the Mark II is planned to be a two-stage fully reusable orbital vehicle that takes off and lands horizontally.[33]

Development costs[edit]

Mark I production is planned to cost $10 million,[34][35] and Mark II around $12 million.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Woollaston, Victoria (14 March 2014) 'Budget' XCOR space trip set to launch in 2016 will let you pilot the ship for £57,000 Daily Mail, Retrieved 26 October 2014
  2. ^ a b c Belfiore, Michael. "XCOR Lynx: Don't Sleep on the Space Corvette". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Schilling, Govert (September 16, 2013). "Lynx Space Plane Taking Off: Q&A with XCOR Aerospace CEO Jeff Greason". Space.com. Retrieved October 23, 2013. 
  4. ^ Space.com: XCOR Zeroes in on Xerus, space.com, 2003-05-19, accessed 2011-01-04.
  5. ^ David, Leonard (2007-04-23). "XCOR Pursues Dream a Step at a Time". Space.com. Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  6. ^ "XCOR AEROSPACE SUBORBITAL VEHICLE TO FLY WITHIN TWO YEARS". XCOR. 26 March 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d Norris, Guy (8 October 2014) XCOR Lynx Moves Into Final Assembly Aviation Week, Retrieved 20 January 2015
  8. ^ "Rocket Test Paves Way For XCOR Lynx Flights". Aviation Week. 28 March 2013. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c Belfore. Michael (November 2013) "The Lynx’s Leap, Can a suborbital spaceship help XCOR reach orbit?" Air & Space Magazine, Smithsonian, Retrieved 14 October 2013
  10. ^ "The Private Space Race". Composites World. 31 August 2010. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c Joiner, Stephen (2011-05-01). "The Mojave Launch Lab". Air & Space Smithsonian. Retrieved 2013-11-03. 
  12. ^ Spark, Joel (2 March 2012). "XCOR, Southwest Research Institute Move Up Suborbital Payload Testing". Space Safety Magazine. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  13. ^ Spark, Joel (2 March 2012). "XCOR, Southwest Research Institute Move Up Suborbital Payload Testing". Space Safety Magazine. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  14. ^ "XCOR Aerospace Lynx". Zap 16. 2011-12-30. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  15. ^ a b c Foust, Jeff (2011-02-28). "Suborbital back out of the shadows". The Space Review. Retrieved 2011-02-28. the 5K18 engine, four of which will power the Lynx ... the last few technical milestones for the engine are largely complete. ... non-toxic reaction control system (RCS) thrusters, a project that Greason said was more challenging in some respects than the larger main engine, but critical to the company’s vision of rapid turnaround times that would not be possible if conventional hydrazine RCS systems are used. The Lynx design has been through two rounds of wind tunnel tests, with a final round planned for later this year for some final tweaks 
  16. ^ "A Spaceplane Is Born". MoonandBack. 2013-09-30. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  17. ^ a b "Lee Valentine on How XCOR Will Open Up Space". parabolicarc.com. March 19, 2012. 
  18. ^ a b c d "XCOR Aerospace’s multi-talented Lynx spaceplane set for KSC". nasaspaceflight.com. August 27, 2012. Retrieved May 1, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Demo'd is a revolutionary rocket engine nozzle and a new engine development partnership". Satnews. 2011-03-22. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  20. ^ Morring, Frank, Jr. (2011-03-23). "ULA, XCOR to Develop Upper-Stage Engine". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2011-03-25. United Launch Alliance (ULA) and XCOR Aerospace are planning a joint effort to develop a low-cost upper-stage engine in the same class as the venerable RL-10, using technology XCOR is developing for its planned Lynx suborbital spaceplane. The two companies have been testing actively cooled aluminum nozzles XCOR is developing for its liquid oxygen/kerosene 5K18 engine for the Lynx, a reusable two-seat piloted vehicle the company plans to use for commercial research and tourist flights. 
  21. ^ "The Private Space Race". compositesworld.com. 2010-08-31. 
  22. ^ Messier, Doug (2013-09-19). "XCOR Follow the Build Looks at Subsonic Wind Tunnel Testing". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  23. ^ Keith Cowing (December 17, 2008). "Successful First Test Fire of Engine for Lynx Suborbital Launch Vehicle". NASA Watch. 
  24. ^ "The Age of Space Flights is about to begin". flyfighterjet.com. 2013-10-12. 
  25. ^ "sRLV platforms compared". NASA. 2011-03-07. Retrieved 2011-03-10. Lynx: Type: HTHL/Piloted 
  26. ^ Belfiore, Michael, (9 January 2013) Lynx Rocket Plane Readying for Summer Flight Moon and Back, Retrieved 5 April 2013
  27. ^ "XCOR Unveils New Suborbital Rocketship". SPACE.com. 
  28. ^ Nilsson, Eric and Zhangyu, Deng (25 October 2014) "The Final Frontier" Daily Telegraph supplement "China Watch" Page 1
  29. ^ (2012) SXC - Buying your tickets into space! SXC web page, Retrieved 5 April 2013
  30. ^ Staff writers (October 6, 2010). "Space Expedition Corporation Announces Wet Lease of XCOR Lynx Suborbital". Space Media Network Promotions. Space-Travel.com. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  31. ^ "Space Experience Curacao". Home. Space Experience Curacao. 2009–2010. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  32. ^ "Commercial Spacesuit Companies Compete for Market Share". Parabolic Arc. March 21, 2011. Retrieved October 30, 2013. 
  33. ^ Aero-TV: XCOR Aerospace -- An Innovative Route To Space (Part 2)
  34. ^ ANDY PASZTOR (March 26, 2008). "Economy Fare ( $100,000) Lifts Space-Tourism Race". wsj.com. 
  35. ^ John Antczak (2008-03-27). "New rocket aims for space tourism market". msnbc.msn.com. 
  36. ^ Jeff Foust (March 31, 2008). "One size may not fit all". thespacereview.com. 

External links[edit]